Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado won the 2013 Rawlings Platinum Glove award in November. And with their victory came a win for sabermetricians, too. For the first time, the sabermetric SDI (SABR Defensive Index) was factored into who won the award (along with votes from baseball fans).
"This year's Rawlings Platinum Glove winners were both the statistical leaders in each league — based on our new SABR Defensive Index,” SABR President Vince Gennaro told me. “It's great to see their outstanding defensive seasons rewarded with this prestigious award.”
There were plenty of great defensive players in baseball this season that could have won the Platinum Glove. So what set Simmons and Machado apart? Let's go to the videotape!
The SDI looks at the quality of defensive plays that players have made and how much better they are than other players in the same positions at those skills. Some of the skills the metric looks at are the ability to turn a double play, bunts converted into outs, and, for first basemen, balls scooped out of dirt and turned into outs when they could have been errors.
In the National League, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina was crucial to the Cardinals getting to the World Series. He also committed only four errors playing a tough position. (Simmons committed 14 errors while playing shortstop, but he made up for the errors with brilliant plays like this one:
Milwaukee Brewers centerfielder Carlos Gomez also had a great season. Gomez finished third in NL voting thanks to plays like this one, robbing Jay Bruce of a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth inning at Miller Park in September:
Meanwhile, in the American League, Machado faced tough competition, too, from his Orioles teammate shortstop J.J. Hardy and scrappy Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Hardy made some pretty amazing plays this season, and Pedroia (who won the Gold Glove this season) was one of the many reasons the Red Sox went from worst to first in 2013:
But Machado shined all year. This was the 21-year-old’s first full season in the majors, but he showed he could play with the big boys by making unreal plays like this one against the Yankees in July:
For more information about the Rawlings Platinum Glove and SABR, visit the SABR website. You can also find out about SABR’s next big event, the 2014 SABR Analytics Conference, which is being held March 13-15 in Phoenix. There will be tons of amazing speakers, historians, players, fans, and sabermetricians on hand to talk about the role of sabrmetrics in baseball.
Max Mannis is an 11-year-old special correspondent for sikids.com and a member of SABR. Catch his posts on advanced baseball statistics. To learn more about SABR and to join, visit www.sabr.org.
Photo courtesy Max Mannis